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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - May 16, 2007

From: evanston, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Growing native grasses in containeers in Illinois
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Hi. How well would native grasses grow in container gardens in Illinois? What soil would you suggest? Thanks.

ANSWER:

Native grasses should work just fine in a container garden. One note of caution; plants in containers are far more susceptible to freeze damage than those in the ground. If you plan to overwinter your grasses in containers they will likely need some protection during hard freezes.

Two parts good garden soil mixed with one part commercial potting media makes a good container mix. Garden soil alone is usually too heavy and drains too slowly to make a good container soil. On the other hand, peat moss and perlite mixes alone tend to dry out too quickly as they don't hold water well enough. A balanced mix will usually work well for two to three years before needing to be replaced.

Here are some attractive grasses native to Illinois:

Andropogon glomeratus (bushy bluestem)

Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge bluestem)

Aristida purpurea (purple threeawn)

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (silver beardgrass)

Bromus kalmii (arctic brome)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Indian woodoats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Koeleria macrantha (prairie Junegrass)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly)

Paspalum floridanum (Florida paspalum)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

 

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